Scheherzade tripped on a bone, half buried and half sprouting out of the ground like a plant. “This knave jowls it to the ground as if it were Cain's jawbone, that did the first murder,” said the bard (Shakespeare).

Scheherzade picked it up and showed it to her sister. “Dead it is not. It sticks out every autumn, bringing death and destruction to the world,” said she.

“Bury it deep so nobody stumbles upon it again,” said Dunyazad.

“No matter how deep we bury, it grows back and trips us. We cannot avoid it,” said Scheherzade.

“You are not wise enough to avoid it,” said King Shahryar.

“Wise we are, my lord, but wisdom cannot beat blind power,” said Scheherzade.

“Power is better blind and deaf. The moment it grows eyes and ears, it changes into weakness,” said the king, adding:

“We still do not know what caused Cain to murder Abel, woman or land.”

“For most men, there’s little difference between the two. They regard both as properties, valued only as long as useful to them,” said Scheherzade.

“Watch out. Imprudence can lead you to a quick death,” the king shouted, grabbing his sword. “I admire your stories but not enough to tolerate insolence.”

“It is not only my craft that has kept me alive, your majesty,” said Scheherzade. “We are the last two women left in your kingdom. If you murder us where will you bury your lust?”

The king unsheathed his sword but the thought of the new aphrodisiacs the royal physician had prepared for him in the morning forced him to put it back.

They resumed their walk in the royal gardens.

As the sun abandoned the earth and the night spread its wings, ready to cover all the sins in its darkness, they returned to the palace.

After dinner, they retreated to the royal chamber and the king said: “Tonight, I will tell you a story. Have you heard of the woman who was bludgeoned to death with bricks outside the Kazi court?”

“We may not have heard this story, your majesty, but know the details,” said Scheherzade.

“And how so?” the king demanded.

Also read: Dark tale of love and murder in Pakistan's rural heartland

“We, the women, do have eyes and ears, although we often fail to see the trap,” said Scheherzade.

“Yes, it was a trap and this woman fell for it,” said the king.

“Pray, share the story, your majesty, if it pleases you,” Scheherzade said.

“That I will, so you may know and acknowledge the idiocy of your kind,” the king said.

“The woman who was bludgeoned to death with bricks outside a Kazi court was love-blind,” the king began. “So she fell for a man twice her age.”

“We may never know what caused her to do so but let’s assume that she was love-blind,” Scheherzade commented.

“Women assume. Men probe,” said the king.

“Yes, your majesty, we do much assumptions. We assumed that men love us and need us. Men do neither. They love their ego and need to satisfy their lust. Once both are satisfied, the man leads the woman he claims to love to a blind-alley, blinded-folded and with her hands tied on the back,” said Scheherzade.

“Unwise that can have dangerous consequences,” said the king, “but since I am in a forgiving mood, I will only ask what leads a woman to this blind alley except her foolishness?”

“Perhaps you are right, your majesty, but what causes a mother to bring up her son and turn him into a man? Love or blindness?” asked Scheherzade.

“Do not argue,” said the king, “remember your have forfeited your life to me.”

“Forfeited I have not, risked, yes,” Scheherzade said to herself, adding: “May I request your majesty to proceed with the story?”

“OK, where was I?” asked the king.

“You were saying that this woman fell for a man twice her age,” Scheherzade reminded him.

“Yes, she did and this man was already married. So he killed his first wife to marry this woman,” the king said.

“Did she ask him to kill her? And even if she did, didn’t he know that murder is a crime punishable with death?” asked Scheherzade.

“We may never know what she said or did because she is dead,” said the king.

“But the man is still alive, can’t they ask him?” said Scheherzade.

“They can but they will not,” said the king.

“Why, your majesty?” asked Scheherzade.

“Because he has already been forgiven,” said the king.

“Forgiven a murder?” asked Scheherzade.

“Yes, by his son,” said the king.

“So the son forgave his mother’s murderer?” asked Scheherzade.

“Yes, this man was his father,” said the king.

“And she was his mother,” said Scheherzade. “You may not, your majesty, but here I will ask: Why a woman nurses her son, knowing that this helpless piece of flesh will turn into a man one day and defile?”

“How do I know, I am not a woman,” said the king.

“You may never know, your majesty,” said Scheherzade, “you may never know. But please narrate your story.”

“After murdering his first wife, he married this woman, which angered her family,” said the king.

“Why so, your majesty?” asked Scheherzade.

“Because she married him against their advice and refused to marry a young man they had chosen for her. The family got so upset that they bludgeoned her to death with bricks outside the Kazi court when she came there to defend her marriage,” the king said.

“Just like that?” asked Scheherzade.

“Yes, just like that. She had brought shame and dishonor to her family,” said the king.

“So it was a question of honor, your majesty?” asked Scheherzade.

“Yes, honor, which is more important than anything else, even life,” said the king. “But you would not know.”

“Yes, I would not know. But if you promise not to behead me, I may request you to explain what I do not understand?” asked Scheherzade.

“Go ahead,” said the king.

“Who has tied a man’s honor to a woman’s body?”

“Shut up and get out of the room before I change my mind,” the king shouted.



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